Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, in memory of La Ferne Hatfield Ellsworth, 1986
Not on view
The year 1919 was an important one in the political fate of the new Chinese Republic. The Treaty of Versailles ending World War I transferred all former German possessions in China to Japan, rather than satisfy Chinese demands for sovereignty and the nullification of foreign privileges in China. On May 4, 1919, students led protest riots in Peking against this blow to Chinese national pride. By June, the focus of protest had moved to Shanghai, where Wang Zhen lived. The May Fourth Movement led to a democratization of Chinese culture, particularly in the use of the vernacular language in literature. New ideas, including socialism, communism, anarchism, pragmatism and women's liberation flashed among the urban populations.
In this climate of political and cultural change, Wang Zhen's painting of the spring of 1920 is particularly poignant. It is a painting of reclusion. The robe-clad figure faces away, lost in contemplation of mists and a "waterfall that splashes like pearls." The image of a paradise, whether a Buddhist Pure Land or the Peach Blossom Spring of China's literary history, appears in several paintings on view in this exhibition. Wang Zhen's own Buddhist beliefs led him to raise money for victims of a major earthquake in Japan at a time when anti-Japanese sentiment in China ran high.
Signature: Bailong shanren Wang Zhen
Dated mid-spring 1914
Artist's inscription: poem, four lines, seven-character meter: The green mist tries but cannot hold the clouds. Perhaps this is the heart of the Peach Blossom World. The pine-shaded waterfall splashes like pearls Watching till sunset without returning.
Artist's seals: 1. Yiting fu (square, red characters) 2. Good fortune of Wang Zhen (square, white characters)
Inscription: Five poems by Shitao written in regular script: 1. The cold oppresses my thatched hut, the snow oppresses the poor. Without food and drink what can one offer to the grain deity? Scorning the world, one can visit old friends, To suppress hunger, one anticipates the new spring. Time breaks my decayed wooden body; I'm oblivious to fatigue. When once I've laughed in the deserted hills, the anger leaves my body. So clumsy and negligent in daily matters, At home only with the inkstone behind the closed door.
2. The snowstorm runs wild, collapsing the fence, the bamboo grove and crashing the gate. Firewood soon exhausted, a few grains keep [me] alive. Yet, writing words, trimming verses and painting the broken landscapes that lie behind the woodcutter, The nights in the empty hall are as bright as day. Lost and mournful by the side of a plum tree in this isolated village. The above two verses on "Starving".
3. The snowstorm rushes cold and dust reaches the sky [Your] departure from [our] poetry group leaves me idle. [May you] be cheerfully directed with the horse whip to the little house with blossoming plum trees. And down from [your] horse, inquire for a wine-inn. On the morning road [you] watch the vanishing riverbanks; On the evening road, sunset over the mists at the station-pavilion. I know wherever you go, your poems are inscribed on walls. Your verses soar up into the clouds, in the company of the immortal poet, Li Taibo. The above is "Bid Farewell to Mei Ouzhang who is leaving Xuancheng". (Anhui)
4. Writing seal script as in sand, don't be surprised that I may descend from the blue yonder. A poet need not regret his forever-unusual delusions. [With this brush] flower sprays in dreams grow as the snow falls. On the riverfront, pondering verses against the wind. The lines in array, some with draft script and words dotted as flying geese. Since the past, the utterance is related to the goose, Let the inscription of (want) Xizhi be next to the cage. The above is a poem "On the Weed brush".
5. Painted red bridge and barge that travels Lake Leitang. Where a thousand years of history evoke recollections, A poem just completed in your memory, [We are] like drifting duckweeds on water, constantly missing one another. The selected classical literature is composed on lofty building in a big city. The brilliant stars shine upon a glorious writing brush. A scholar may carry his finest arrow for the hunt, Without meeting a ruling sovereign, he may never acquire recognition. The above is a poem "Mail from the Riverboat at Dumen".
Marking: Collectors' seals: Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (two)
Robert H. Ellsworth , New York (until 1986; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Painting: Selections from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection," February 2, 1988–September 25, 1988.